Independent Living – The Second Revelation

Participants at the Independent Living Seminar.

There was a time, should someone ask me to name great men, I would have rattled off names of larger-than-life military leaders throughout history who commanded huge armies to conquer vast territories. That perception was seriously flawed. The greatest men are those that achieved more with less. I had the privilege to be acquainted with not only two of such great people but fifteen more of them recently.

Participants of the Independent Living Workshop.

The Independent Living Seminar & Workshop was the most amazing five days that radically changed all that I knew about being a Person with Disabilities (PWD). The concept of Independent Living (IL) was something I had not expected. It is not about being able to do all the things by myself. Rather, it is about choices – the choice to determine how I want to live my life, either by myself or with the help of others. One hundred PWDs and people involved with PWDs attended the one day seminar on September 10. Sixteen PWDs participated in the four-day live-in workshop from September 11 to 14. Each sixteeen of us suffers from some form of physical disabilities, most more severely than me, and had come from all parts of Malaysia to attend this workshop. Travelling is always a problem for PWDs and it was this determination that really inspired me.

(L – r) Resource persons Ms. Aiko Tsutsumi and Ms. Hiroko Akiyama.

The two resource persons were the most remarkable role models I could have ever asked for. Ms. Hiroko Akiyama is totally paralysed and needs round-the-clock assistance. Ms. Aiko Tsutsumi is a paraplegia and was always very animated in her presentations. Both resource persons took turns to conduct each day’s sessions that lasted from 9.00am to 5.00pm with breaks in between for lunch and tea. Each session was an eye-opener because all that was shared with us was something we have never learnt before. Below is a brief bio of each resource person:

Ms. Hiroko Akiyama, Director of Hino IL Centre
Worked as a consultant on IL for JICA in Thailand, and has conducted training courses in the Philippines and Korea. Has published several books on IL and peer-counseling in Japanese.

Ms. Aiko Tsutsumi, Vice President of Machida Human Network (IL Centre)
Published several books on IL, peer-counseling, and issues on Eugenic protection law in Japanese. She was also in charge of several training programmes on IL for international participants.

During one session at Independent Living Workshop.

I had my first revelation in the vision I had just before Mum passed on. That changed my spiritual conviction and opened up a new path in my life based on the teachings of Jesus. This workshop is the second revelation. It has given me a new direction and a sense of purpose in my crusade for disability issues in Malaysia. Over the next twelve months, the sixteen of us participants will be embarking on a series of awareness campaigns and seminars on Independent Living throughout Malaysia. We have pledged to support each other to realise one common dream – to establish the first Independent Living Centre in Malaysia within three years. This roadshow will be the initial step in our ambition to create the first of many Independent Living Centres here.

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

5 thoughts on “Independent Living – The Second Revelation”

  1. Peter,

    It is interesting to note that the IL workshop that you had attended recently was organised by JICA and JKM. It is being done more formally than the one I attended some years ago (possibly the year 2000) at Brickfields, KL. That one was not via a government agency. JICA usually likes to organise via a government agency.

    It is interesting as well that you and other participants are determine to set up an IL organisation in Malaysia based on true IL principles. I wish you the best.

    My understanding is that although IL is a powerful concept, it could only work in a developed country, when the country itself really truly understand the concept of IL and support it with the own country’s laws and programmes for disabled people.

    This is an interesting benchmark for Malaysia to consider aspire to, if Malaysia dares to call itself a developed country.

    Firstly, Malaysia should have a “Rights-based Legislation” which is anti-discrimination in nature for disabled people. We need to ask JKM who had supported the IL workshop, when is the Disabled Person’s Act going to be passed by Parliament, for a start.

    Hence, there is a lot of work to be done to kick-start IL in Malaysia.

    Just sharing my thoughts.

  2. Dear Mr.Tan,
    I came across your weblog while reading today’s(17/9/05) Malay Mail.I am a blogger myself, and understand how it feels to encounter an irresponsible comment leaver. After reading your blog, I really must say a few things.Firstly, your civic conciousness is admirable.We(young Malaysians) need more role models of your stature.
    Apathy is becoming a big issue amongst the younger generation,and there is a “If it doesn’t concern me,I won’t bother” attitude dangerously creeping into our culture.Personally, I found this weblog immensely informative (especially about Persons With Disabilities).Keep up the good work.
    Secondly, I would like to say that I’m a Protestant Christian myself,and I understand that sometime ago, someone in a similar position said something that offended you.I sincerely hope that you will not judge us all by that encounter.It’s just like this illustration;
    If you found a fake RM50 note in a pile of similar notes, would you throw the whole pile away?
    This applies both to religion as well as race.We must never make judgements on any race just because we met a (few) ‘fake RM50 notes’. There are plenty of genuine people as well.
    To me, a christian is someone who loves,obeys and has a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.Our faith is not determined by what church we attend,or what denomination we belong to, but by the condition of our hearts.Do we love Him passionately?Does our life mirror His? not whether we are Catholics, Methodists,Lutherans, Baptists or Charismatics etc.,etc.
    May the Lord continue to keep you,and make His face shine on you.

    With best regards.

  3. all the best to all sixteen of you, will be praying that you do achieve you dream, if you need any help or support, there are a big bunch of energetic, lively and enthusiastic young and “not so young” malaysians over at pps, all more than willing to give you a hand. God bless! see you at mid valley next sunday!

  4. LecturerUM,
    This IL workshop has taught us a lot of things. We are going to attempt to change the mindset with the one year programme we have planned first. We need to take small baby steps. If nourished properly, I believe this concept is doable here. I will continue to write about IL here later because currently I am trying to sort out my time and my thoughts. A lot has been happening lately and I need to sit back and reset my priorities again. I hope when you return, you will join us in making this a success. And that is one thing I am really looking forward to. 😀

    As I mentioned in a previous comment, I do not hate these people. I just do not want to be near them when they regurgitate such blasphemy against my faith. I do not want to waste time and strength in defending my belief all the time from such people. I would rather do something more constructive than to go on a verbal sparring. My only wish is to be left alone to practise what I am currently doing now. I have a lot of Protestant friends who can share with me their beliefs without being offensive. It is a few rotten apples that are spoiling the whole basket. This is all I want to say. Peace be with you.

    We certainly will need a lot of help in many aspects. Thank you for your offer. We will definitely holler when we need it. God bless you.

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